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Whether you grew up hosting block parties or are throwing your first, follow our surefire tips for a relaxing event guests of all ages can enjoy. Here's our rundown on what you can take care of ahead of time and what you should do the day of the party.
1. Food on a Stick
Do Ahead: We love grilling skewers when entertaining because the uniform size allows everything to cook at the same time. This watermelon and feta rendition makes a refreshing starter, and we've got 5 Tasty Takes on the Grilled Meat Kebab for heartier fare on a stick. Thread the ingredients on the skewers the night before.
The Day Of: Just throw the skewers on the grill, or better yet, assign someone else to keep an eye on them.
2. The Sides
Do Ahead: Our healthy pasta salad, potato salad, and tabbouleh are perfect for making in advance. They're packed with fresh summer veggies and herbs and taste even more delicious after the flavors mingle in the fridge.
The Day Of: Serve family-style and enjoy!
3. The Drinks
Do Ahead: When it comes to hydrating a crowd, it's best to keep things simple. Brew a classic iced tea and make several batches of Martha's Extra-Lemony Lemonade, freezing half the lemonade into ice cubes. The citrusy ice won't dilute the lemonade as it melts and will boost the flavor of the tea, creating an Arnold Palmer effect as it melts.
The Day Of: Serve iced tea and lemonade with the lemonade ice cubes. And for a boozy option, set out bottles of Champagne, Aperol, and soda water so guests can mix themselves an Aperol Spritz. (If you want to do this step ahead of time, too, bottle the cocktail and refrigerate for up to a week in advance.) Big-batch cocktails such as sangria and punch also work great for block parties.
4. The Desserts
Do Ahead: Desserts with a dash of nostalgia will have your guests clamoring for more. Make our favorite vanilla sheet cake and lemon cream-cheese frosting before the party and store in the refrigerator. Or assemble the graham cracker crust and smooth chocolate filling for Toasted S'mores Pie.
The Day Of: Frost the cake and serve with blueberries. Finish the pie with a topping of flaky salt and toasted marshmallows.
5. The Decor
Do Ahead: Pool resources! Start a Facebook group and touch base with your neighbors about what they can bring. The mishmash of chairs, tablecloths, flowers, and more will add to the laid-back, casual feel of the event. If you're feeling crafty, try making easy, elegant vases with glass bottles or jam jars and white enamel paint.
The Day Of: Set up all the outdoor furniture and fill the aforementioned vases with flowers from neighbors' gardens and your own.
6. The Activities
Do Ahead: Stock up on paper cups, washi tape, watercolors, and markers. Organize an obstacle course with items found around the house, such as ladders, ropes, pool noodles, and hula hoops.
The Day Of: Set up a table and let the kids decorate their own cups before they grab a beverage. And delegate someone to oversee the obstacle course -- "Ready, set, go!"